You don't need to be a golf nut to recognize the Masters. At some point you've seen those famous green jackets and the professional golfers with mile-wide smiles sliding their arms into the sleeves. It's a remarkably vivid image because, well, why would anyone be so happy to wear such an ugly jacket? The simple answer is this: that green jacket is the prize for winning the Masters, the ultimate prize in professional golf.
So needless to say, the Masters is a pretty big deal. This year will mark the first time that the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series has featured the legendary tournament. It has only been the most requested new feature for countless years, and this year it's finally "in the game." (Sorry. Couldn't resist.) And don't think EA Sports doesn't realize how big of a draw this has the potential to be. The word "Masters" is the biggest chunk of text on the front of the box art, sitting right there in front of a scenic shot of Tiger at Augusta National.
The 18 holes that make up the gamut of courses at Augusta are all there, but that's the sort of no-brainer stuff you would expect. One of the nice unexpected bonuses that ought to delight golf fans is a fully revamped broadcast package for the Masters, including Masters-specific graphics and full audio commentary from longtime Masters host Jim Nantz. There's also a feature that lets you go back in time to relive famous moments throughout the Masters, like re-creating Tiger's four winning runs and other historical moments like Arnold Palmer's 1958 effort.
There will undoubtedly be a lot of buzz around the Masters, and with good reason--it's golf's ultimate prize, and fans of the Tiger games have been eagerly awaiting this feature for years. But the developers at EA Tiburon have been working on some other new features as well, so here are five more that caught our eye.
1. New Caddy System
Tiger 12 offers a new way to help improve your golf game--by giving you a caddy to suggest your next shot. Before each shot, an AI-controlled caddy will offer a small handful of potential shots ranging from aggressive, high-risk-reward shots to more safe and cautious approaches. Things like fade and draw are automatically built into the shot, so you just need to make sure your stroke has the right power and angle. Hardcore players can ignore this advice by either turning it off completely or skipping it on a case-by-case basis in order to get into the nitty-gritty of a custom shot.
2. One-Button Menu Navigation
Menus are one of those things hardcore gamers take for granted--we see a simple way to get to our next goal, but less-seasoned gamers see an intimidating wall of text and indecipherable branching pathways. That's why EA Tiburon has effectively added two ways to navigate through the game from the menu screens. You've got the left half of the screen where you can jump into detailed options like your sponsors and pro shop settings, while the right half of the screen features a new tool called the Career Assistant. This feature is designed to let you get to the next career event with a single button press, suggesting the next course or tournament to hit when it makes sense to go there.
3. Revamped Career Mode Progression
The career mode in Tiger Woods has historically been very much rooted in the idea of earning and spending experience points. You'll still be able to earn XP, but now you're using it only to upgrade your abilities (things like driving power and accuracy). No longer will you use XP to buy new gear. Instead, you're now building more intimate relationships with your sponsors. You pick a sponsor and build up your level with them, unlocking new gear after you've spent time with a company.
4. Improved PlayStation Move Controls
Move support was patched into the PlayStation 3 version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 after the game was released--the game came out before Move did, after all--but this year Tiburon has been able to spend more time with the hardware to improve the Move experience. While we didn't get a chance to try it, Tiburon tells us that it has added new techniques like spin and boost, while making other subtle techniques more reliable than they were last year.
5. 3D Grass
OK, fine, this one's a bit of a stretch. 3D blades of grass that sway in the wind depending on weather conditions will probably appeal only to the hardest of hardcore players. But if that's what you fancy yourself--there you go. 3D grass!
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 will be released on March 29. You can expect to see more coverage here on GameSpot as that date draws closer.